Office of the President

Here Are the Facts

December 12, 2022

Dear Campus Community, 

False and misleading information in recent news stories and social media posts about two campus cases — that were publicly addressed and appropriately resolved several years ago — prompts me to provide you with clarifying facts and links to public documents to help set the record straight. A campus like ours should be a place where diverse opinions and perspectives flourish, but those viewpoints should always be informed by facts. 

The two cases 

In one case from 2017, a professor’s alleged improper use of funds from a $100,000 grant was investigated, at my request, by the CSU’s Audit and Advisory Services unit. As noted in their report, they found that no illegality or embezzlement occurred. In another case, it was discovered in 2020 that a now-former employee of the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation — a separate non-profit that runs the Bronco Bookstore, Dining Services and more — had embezzled $952,000 dating back to 2010. The matter was investigated by the CSU and law enforcement, and the former employee is now serving a prison sentence for the embezzlement. 

No “cover up” 

Neither I, nor the University, covered up or impeded investigations into these cases. In both cases, thorough investigations were conducted, and we made changes to our policies and procedures to prevent reoccurrence. From the time the embezzlement by a former Foundation employee was discovered, the Foundation CEO has proactively and consistently communicated the facts of the case to the Foundation board, which includes faculty, staff, ASI representatives and community members. In our communication to authorities, the CSU, and the Foundation board, I also felt it was important to reinforce that none of the funds in this case were state, grant or student funds. We have, at all times, operated legally, ethically and transparently, even when examining our own shortcomings. Any suggestion to the contrary is false. 

No student fees, tuition dollars or taxpayer funds  

Neither case involved student fees, tuition dollars or the taxpayer funds used to operate Cal Poly Pomona. In the first case, a professor who was a recipient of an external private grant made questionable expenditures that, upon investigation by the CSU, turned out to be allowable, as they were not specifically excluded by the grant rules.  

In the case involving embezzlement by a former Foundation employee, the Foundation will recover the $952,000 embezzled, minus a $5,000 insurance deductible, through a combination of insurance and restitution from the convicted offender. No student-facing programs were affected, and our educational mission was in no way impaired.  

Proper procedures were followed  

From the time the embezzlement by the former Foundation employee was discovered, the University has cooperated with law enforcement and fulfilled all disclosure and reporting requirements. I also ensured that the matter was reported to the Audit Committee of the CSU Board of Trustees, which is standard practice. The CSU’s Audit and Advisory Services unit conducted a thorough review of the Foundation’s processes and internal controls, and the recommended changes were instituted. 

In the other case, I was notified by an academic administrator of a concern regarding a professor’s management of an external private grant. Once again, I contacted CSU’s Audit and Advisory Services unit to conduct a full investigation. I had no prior involvement with the professor or any knowledge of the grant. Although the investigation results, publicly disclosed in this report from 2018, revealed that the expenditures were allowable, there were some recommended corrective actions, which the Foundation swiftly implemented. 

Facts matter 

As your President, know that I am comfortable with criticism — but none of us should be comfortable with falsehoods. As I have shared the facts of these cases with some of you in recent weeks, your supportive and affirming response contributed to my ultimate decision to send this message to the broader campus community. My actions and the actions of the University were both ethical and in compliance with applicable law and policy. I take this opportunity to reiterate my commitment to, and regard for, you — the members of our campus community. I hope that the information provided is both clarifying and reassuring. 


Soraya M. Coley
Ph.D. President